In a season that has been very up and down for Maryland, Wednesday night's game against North Carolina was another chance to try to build off a big win. After notching a rare ACC road win, Maryland was hoping to improve their chance of securing an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament by defeating the Tar Heels. Unfortunately for the Terps, the end result was another disappointing loss, one that likely means that they'll have to win the ACC Tournament if they want to be part of the big dance this March.
"I'm disappointed. I didn't like the energy we started the game with" head coach Mark Turgeon said following the game. "With that said, we couldn't make a shot. We had some really good looks, especially early. We lost the game from the 3:23 [in the 1st half], which was the media timeout, until when I had to call timeout with 15:00 [in the 2nd half]. We went from up one to down 13. We just didn't play very smart during that stretch. And with that said, North Carolina is really good. They're really playing well, making shots, Bullock and Hairston are tough match ups."
The sequence Turgeon was referring to was a huge momentum swing in the game and was arguably what won the game for the Tar Heels. With UNC up by two with 2:25 left, Maryland missed three shots before Dez Wells grabbed a rebound. Wells then turned it over and fouled P.J. Hairston. After Hairston missed the front end of a one and one, he rebounded his missed shot and passed it to Reggie Bullock, who mad a jump shot, extending the Tar Heels' lead to four. 19 seconds later, James Padgett turned it over and Marcus Paige made a three point basket to put Carolina up by seven entering the break. Maryland just seemed unable to recover from that sequence of events. The Terps further compounded matters by allowing the Tar Heels to build their lead to 13, missing five shots and turning the ball over twice in the first five minutes of the 2nd half. They were able to pull within six a one point in the second half, but two quick defensive lapses saw the Tar Heels again push their lead to double digits.
"We cut it to six and we had a chance to really get a good possession defensively and we didn't get the stop that we needed." sophomore Dez Wells said following the game. "That really hurt us a lot. With that being said, we gave great effort, we came out and played really hard. I'm proud of my guys. We left it all out on the court."
When asked about the difficulty of guarding Carolina, Dez Wells provided some insight into why it can be hard to stop the Tar Heels. "They don't run many sets. They have a freelance kind of offense. That's harder to guard than sets. You can scout sets and know people are going to be where they're going to be and how you're going to guard it. But with a freelance, motion offense, it's pretty hard because they set screens whenever they want to, they set screens on whoever they want to and they play really good off screens, so that's really tough to guard."
Alex Len, who seemed stymied on offense by the Carolina defense that frequently double teamed him, said the smaller Tar Heels players impacted his team's ability to score inside. "They were really, I don't know, tough matchups for us because of their small lineups. They were making shots and guarding; it was changing the game."
When asked about Len's play after the game, Mark Turgeon didn't seem happy about how his sophomore center performed. "We got him a wide open lob, then he hit two pick up loose balls, dunks. When we threw him the ball, not much happened."
Turgeon seemed noticeably frustrated with the loss during his press conference. When asked about what he discussed with his players following the game, Turgeon simply said "That's between us."
"We got down on ourselves tonight and guys who usually make shots were missing ones that they usually don't miss." Nick Faust said following the game. "Missing shots really affected us on the defensive end. We have to push through and learn how to play defense even when our offense isn't at its best."
"It's disappointing. I'm disappointed" Turgeon said. "I wanted to be better tonight and we weren't. I thought the crowd was great. They are good, Carolina played well. We let our offense affect our defense. We didn't guard well enough. We need to guard better than that."
Maryland now turns their attention to Virginia, who they play on Sunday in Charlottesville.
"We just have to learn from this game and we have to go win at Virginia" Len said.
"Hopefully we can still make it [to] postseason play" Faust said. "We are trying to get better every week, and we are doing whatever we can to win every game."